The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department is faced with the illegal trade of birds across the whole province. Like in all other provinces, many animals have been pushed to extinction by the greed of poachers but it is the province’s birds that are suffering the most at their hands.
The trade is at its peak but arrests and other measures by wildlife officials is limited to vendors who sells myna, parrots and other colourful birds without obtaining licences to do so. “We are poor people and this is the only way we can make a living,” justified Bahadur Khan, who was arrested by wildlife officials for hunting down dozens of Myna birds.
Sardar Muhammad Khan, who also illegally hunts and trades valuable birds, said that almost every bird they catch has a market. The hunting of such birds is banned by the K-P government but due to inaction and lack of deterrents, the hunting continues, from Chitral to Peshawar.
Choos Kata is one of the rare birds being hunted in Chitral’s Shali and Ayoun areas and can fetch between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000. The terinaak, is sold for Rs 10,000, while the Choora goes for up to Rs 20,000. However, the most expensive of them all is the Bari Surkh, with a single one being sold for between Rs 5 million and Rs 6 million. The Bari Surkh is usually smuggled to Arab countries as few local buyers can afford it.
However, catching these birds is not easy, especially as they become increasingly rare. “We begin the hunting season at the start of October and it goes till the end of December but we are only able to hunt down 50 to 55 birds,” said a poacher. “Some of these birds die while they are being transported in sacks to other cities so that’s even fewer birds that we are able to sell.”
Not all animals are exported though. The sekar and the peregrine falcon are being smuggled into the province from all over the world, despite their trade being banned in the entire country, according to divisional forest officer Niaz Muhammad. While proper data on wildlife is lacking, Muhammad claimed that there are 455 different species of birds in the province, out of which around a dozen are considered rare.
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